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Glaring glory and falling bombs

By Hooman Moradmand, Canada

It seems to me there is a gap building up between me and some Iranians who mostly happen to either live in Iran, or live abroad physically but continue to live mentally in Iran. Partially naturally during our conversations, I tilt to the opposite of their positions on political issues, not just for the sake of being devil's advocate, but hopefully to balance the emotions out and shed light on things, I think, I see whereas they don't. It sounds like what other people would think too. In doing so, I usually work out a common middle ground where we agree. But I have chosen silence when it comes to people who I see many of them recently among Iranians. People who are overwhelmed by the glory of a collective of countries, symbolized by the United States of America, whose bombs are more effective to them than any other prescriptions for a short cut to democracy.

But is it how today's democratic countries achieved their democracy? Being bombed by other countries? Before the birth of the US of A, in the 17th century, England witnessed an Oliver Cromwell beheading the king of England and establishing The Republic of England before going down the same old route of dictatorship. Later on the old monarchy regime with some modifications was re-instated. England is arguably the first major country in the more recent history that started moving towards democracy in a consistent way. The road to democracy for Britain was very bumpy full of compromises and patience, and in this path the pendulum of political events kept swinging from one side to all the way to the other. In other countries, though, pendulum's swings were wilder. Can we compare our situation to that of England at that particular time? I would say there are fundamental differences. There were no other nation doing significantly better than England at that time who the English could look up to. Moreover, nobody messed with them by plotting a coup or dropping bombs and changing their fate. Hence they had no option but to remain content with what they had and improved their political system in the course of time. Whereas in our case, people receive information from countries, where we are blinded by their glory, through movies, books, visitors, technological products, satellite, and the Internet. No wonder some cannot wait to see all those glamour in their hands and prefer the short way of being bombed to achieve what others achieved by themselves in a long span of time.

But how is Britain doing these days in terms of democracy? According to the organizers 2 million people, and according to police more than 750,000 people took to the streets of London over the peace protests, a large number by any rate. Poll after poll shows that majority of the British people is against the war even with a UN endorsement. Will those voices be heard? I doubt it. "I rejoice that we live in a country where peaceful protest is a natural part of our democratic process." Tony Blair said on the same day the peace protests occurred. It is frustrating that after decades of relentless fight for people on people governance, rejoicing the ambiance your opinion has created is the utmost acknowledgment you could get from an elected politician. Rejoicing is the word to describe the practical difference between democratic Britain and dictatorial countries. And yet this is the climax of a nation's democratic accomplishment before encountering a major issue which has put democracy in a sliding path: voters' apathy. Currently less than half of the electorates, in the US, bother to vote in presidential elections, and only one-third are likely to vote in the mid-term Congressional elections. The low turnout means that pressure groups who can rally supporters, from the National Rifle Association to the American Association of Retired Persons, have disproportionate influence on the electoral process. The numbers also suggest the middle class and rich are far more likely to vote than the poor, consequently shifting politics to the right. Americans are increasingly turned off by politics, which they believe is irrelevant to their lives. Who would care about politics when you are led to believe that everything is alright? This is not a problem with the United States only. Voters' apathy has made Canadian government a one-party system for a long time. Canada's ruling party has a majority in the Parliament of the country with less than 37% of the popular vote. Britain is also being plagued by the same syndrome. For France and Germany's case, you just have to re-visit the news on these countries' last year elections. We will see more of these in the future.

But what about social freedoms? The fact of the matter is that social liberalism expanded in democratic countries long after political fluctuations reduced to reasonable levels. Since the end of the Second World War, United States was perhaps the first country to loosen up even though, due to its vast geography, the quiet social revolution did not catch on the whole country with the same pace. Before that the individual freedoms and privacy was limited to cosmopolitan cities - San Francisco and New York. Up until a couple of decades ago, in many counties throughout the US, dancing between boys and girls were forbidden. There are still 10 states as we speak that pre-marriage sex is regarded to be illegal. In many areas and cities even in Canada, people had to shut their drapes to play cards or gamble. If you see Catholic Churches' belongings have become swearing lines in Quebec today, it is simply because of decades of clergy domination that made people separate their public life from private life and live these two differently. Sounds familiar? It was yet long after the separation of church and state ideology.

I do not intend here to examine historical developments of certain countries in certain areas. However, I just meant to mention there are parallels and similarities. We should not be overwhelmed by this glaring glory which is not that glaring after all. Not glaring in a sense I just see them come out of the trenches where we are just in. Last time I made this little speech to my pro-war Iranian listener, I also suggested no matter what path we choose to more prosperity, we should do it ourselves, and let the events take their natural course. He looked at me with disbelief and suspicion first about my social liberties remarks and then he said, "Well, It is easy to preach patience remotely from Canada to people under suppression in the Middle East. Sometimes death of a few is worth removal of guys like Saddam". "You might be right." I said. "But it is obviously easier to prescribe death when you are safe in Canada. Would you speak with the same tone if you knew either you or one of your loved ones will be among the dead?" He went silent. And I was remembering how one-missile-a-day ration had made him flee to the suburbs 13 years ago in Tehran. This is how I decided to go silent on this issue after this little crossfire of words.

About the author:
Hooman lives in Canada. He writes easy going column-like essays based on his observations whereby conclusion is left to the reader to draw.

... Payvand News - 3/8/03 ... --

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